Tag Archives: James Bond

Under The Radar: Codeine Velvet Club

The name is almost an oxymoron, jacked up yet smooth. But that’s a pretty accurate description of the charming and infectious retro-pop served up by the band, a collaboration between Jon Lawler of The Fratellis and Lou Hickey, an heretofore unknown cabaret singer from Glasgow. The eponymous album was released in 2009 and failed to chart any singles but did have a video nominated for an award by MTV Europe; the album was released in the US almost a year ago, adding a bonus track cover of a Stone Roses classic.

Video: “I Am The Resurrection

Video: “Hollywood

Reportedly the pair came together when Hickey received a grant from the Scottish Arts Council and asked her friend – Lawler’s wife – for advice. The Fratellis were taking a break and Lawler was looking for something to do between albums. Lawler is a fan of James Bond film scores; Hickey an old-school type geeked about swing, big band and Lee Hazlewood-Nancy Sinatra. What are the odds that these two would find each other and mesh so seamlessly, from vocals to songwriting skill? Timing is everything.

I was pretty floored considering the image that The Fratellis present in their music; CVC is a much more sophisticated set of songs. The Codeine Velvet Club most often mixes Cabaret-style posturing with cinematic pop; Hickey’s voice is perfect and she’s a great visual focal point as well. Lawler slides into this other persona with ease, and the assembled backing band adds punch and atmosphere. No wonder that there’s a little John Barry in there; trumpeter Derek Watkins has played on every Bond soundtrack to date.

Video: “Little Sister

Sadly, they’ve disbanded already. Let’s hope that like many great side projects, the principals decide to reanimate it from time to time. In the meantime, if this means a new Fratellis album is on the way (although Lawler is hinting about going solo), that would be more great news.

Listen to clips on Amazon.

Codeine Velvet Club official website and on MySpace

The Fratellis website

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Archer!

The DVD for the first season of Archer is here!

Welcome to the world of Sterling Archer, the cartoon intersection of Maxwell Smart and…probably Arrested Development‘s hapless Gob Bluth. Voiced by the wonderful H. Jon Benjamin, Archer drinks, swears and screws his way through the spy world much to the chagrin of everyone at ISIS, the international (lack of) intelligence agency where he works.

Where Man From U.N.C.L.E. poked fun at the James Bond legacy, Archer completely disembowels it. Sarcastic, rude and laugh-out-loud funny, Archer is all kinds of wrong and would probably be offensive in lesser hands, but the writing is so good that they get away with it.

Video: Archer Trailer

Archer boats great writing and pitch-perfect voice acting from the entire cast, which features Judy Greer, Chris Parnell, Aisha Tyler and Jessica Walter all but channeling her frustrated and sarcastic mother role from Arrested Development…as Archer’s mother and his boss.

I’ve seen the episodes on TV and was hoping for a wealth of bonus features on the DVD but it’s a pretty bare bones affair. All ten episodes are here, plus a few bonus clips and a “lost pilot” episode (don’t let anyone spoil that for you) plus promos episodes for two other FX series, The League and Louie.

But the price is low, and there are so many nested in-jokes and running gags that each episode demands multiple viewings. Normally I’d expect a show like this to air on Adult Swim, but FX has proven to be a daring channel in both comedy and drama. Season two starts January 27th, so get this and get caught up!

Archer official website at FX

Archer will shake you up *and* stir you up.

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Happy Birthday Don Adams

Don Adams died five years ago today.

Get Smart was one of the funniest television shows of its time, combining puns and double-entendres with great sight gags. Of course, they had a ripe playing field to run around on. Spy movies were big at the time – from the apex of the James Bond films to the more serious (and better scripted) classics like The Ipcress File and The Spy Who Came In From The Cold.

Of course, with writers like Buck Henry and Mel Brooks, how could it not be funny? Catchphrases “Would you believe?”, “Missed it by that much!” and “Sorry about that, Chief” became part of the lexicon. It’s no accident that Steve Carell played the Maxwell Smart role in the recent big screen adaptation; both comic actors have a knack for sarcasm and deadpan humor. By more or less playing it straight, their buffoonish characters are that much funnier.

Adams’ distinctive voice was also immediately recognizable as the lead character in a pair of well-known cartoon classics – Tennessee Tuxedo and Inspector Gadget. Not much acting there – each sounded exactly like Maxwell Smart hiding behind an animated costume, which made watching either of them a surreal experience for me.

But sometimes lightning in a bottle is just that. The Get Smart films Adams made were amusing but paled in comparison to the show, as did the Carell film (which had its moments but completely blew the tone). Adams and Barbara Feldon even tried to re-launch the series  thirty years after the initial program debuted (with Max as chief!) but it  floundered and died. Thankfully, the studios finally released the complete set of the original Get Smart episodes two years ago…it’s amazing how much of it holds up after forty-five years.

Don Adams Wikipedia page

Get Smart on DVD

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Holmes knows Holmes

Great actor, bad idea

FICTION: Every time they remake Sherlock Holmes it gets better! 

The virtual ink was barely dry on the my recap of historical Sherlock Holmes movies when the new bombastic film hit theatres over the holidays. I don’t know about you, but when I think of the world’s greatest detective I don’t think of meticulous analysis of clues, a flawless observation of the human mind and an ability to anticipate the moves of even the most industrious adversaries. No…I think shirtless guys beating each other in cage matches, Rube Goldberg contraptions that even an over-the-top show like The Wild Wild West tossed aside as too absurd and shit blowing up real good

(Yes, that was satire.) 

I love Robert Downey Jr.’s acting skill; I’m still haunted by his stunning inhabitation of Charlie Chaplin and am happy that he’s seemingly pulled his ass out of the gutter at the final moment to resume what hopefully will be a long and storied career. But I hope he did this one for a pile of cash, because he just shat on a legacy, Golden Globe or not. (The fact that the movie was entered as a comedy should tell you all you need to know about its adherence to the Holmes legend). So on to the essay… 

Anytime a major fictional character is played by more than one person, endless discussions will ensue regarding which actor was the standard by which all others should be measured. Sean Connery’s charm and poise seems to have cemented his status as the ultimate James Bond, but when discussions turn to Scrooge, Alastair Sim’s dynamic performance is often undervalued because of the antiquity of A Christmas Carol both in age and condition. 

Later generations, more drawn to color film and special effects, tend to favor George C. Scott or Albert Finney. Likewise, when discussions turn to Sherlock Holmes, the quality and production of the more recent films featuring Jeremy Brett tend to tip the scales his way for many viewers. For as good as the films featuring Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes might have been, the WWII era prints degenerated so much over the years that they became almost unwatchable. 

 

FACT: Basil Rathbone is the definitive Sherlock Holmes. 

Rathbone, who resembles the illustrations of Holmes from the original stories, plays up the character’s eccentricities and intelligence without flamboyance, although he will engage in physical activity in pursuit of justice. In fact, he’s occasionally reckless and often is within a whisker of a tragic move. Yet when at his best – face to face with an adversary, one mind battling another – it’s fascinating to watch him convey his superior intellect and chess-like manipulation without using physical gestures

Read the rest of my full review in PopMatters.

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